A food festival celebrating one of the bounties of Galveston Bay is set to return Saturday after being on hiatus in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
The San Leon Oyster Fest will be at Pier 6 Seafood, 113 Sixth St. in San Leon, on Saturday afternoon. With the weather forecast to be clear and sunny, organizers are expecting thousands of people to attend and enjoy food, drinks and music, said Lisa Halili, one of the owners of Prestige Oysters in San Leon, which founded the festival. The festival is now run by a nonprofit organization, she said.
The oyster festival was founded in 2016 and intended to be an annual event. But organizers scrubbed plans for the festival in 2018 because people were still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, which struck in 2017.
“We didn’t have it last year because of Harvey,” Halili said. “Everything was closed, all the bays and everything, and out of respect for everyone that was out of their homes.”
The festival is intended to be a celebration of Texas oysters, which are still very much recovering from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Before that hurricane, Galveston Bay produced more than 6 million pounds of oysters annually. But since the storm, it’s never produced more than 3.5 million pounds.
Hurricane Ike covered oysters in the bay with silt and sediment, essentially suffocating them.
Environmental and industry groups have slowly worked to restore reefs in the bay over the years, though production is still not at pre-Ike levels.
For that reason, part of the selling point of the festival is that all of the oysters shells will be recycled into parts of a new oyster reef, Halili said.
“I’m praying that we’re going to be able to get enough funds that it will cover the festival, and we’ll have money left over, so that not just the shells that are in the festival are used, but that we’ll be able to buy more material to put back in the bay,” she said.
“Even if you eat one oyster, that shell is going to go back in the bay.”
The festival also will include musical acts, an auction and a grilled oyster cooking contest. Raw, grilled and fried oysters will be on the menu, Halili said.